Despite evidence to the contrary, records managers haven't gone extinct — yet. But they might, unless the role evolves.

Simply ensuring data compliance isn't enough any more, according to new research from Iron Mountain

Neither is simply tracking what data to archive or developing classification and taxonomies for data in dozens of repositories across the enterprise.

To stay relevant, Sue Trombley, managing director of thought leadership at Iron Mountain said, records managers need to place themselves at the heart of the business and join in the decision making around big data, analytics, customer relationship management, customer experience management, digital marketing and other key business roles.

Records managers have effectively morphed into information managers, or at least should have by now.

Evolving Role

Iron Mountain has been conducting research on two continents to gain insights about the state of information management. 

This report, Overcoming the Disconnect,is based on responses from workers in 900 organizations in the US and Europe in verticals including healthcare, retail, legal and financial.

There was an interesting difference in opinion between the US and Europe. 

In Europe, business leaders and records and information managers all agreed the critical skills for the future include the ability to add insights and analytics to information was well as an understanding of wider business goals and how these skills impact on the business.

In the US, decision makers also put insight and analysis at the top of their wish lists. But they disagreed with their European peers by putting compliance and digital management at the top of the key skills list.

There were three principal findings:

  • Businesses are not using their records and information managers to their best advantage.
  • Business leaders do not see records information managers the same ways they see themselves
  • There are questions about whether today’s records and information processionals are ready to manage future information needs

Change the Title

Trombley thinks it's time to abandon the title of records manager. 

"That needs to be left behind. We can talk about this group of people called information managers. 

"They have to be able to manage more than the official records of an organization. They have to be able to give advice around privacy and security, around big data and dark data, to have a seat at the table when enterprises discuss the use of analytics and access issues,” she said.

Records, she said, are just a subset of an enterprise's information profile, which has changed with the number of data sources entering the enterprise. 

“The role has definitely evolved and more people have gotten involved in the management of electronic content like ECM, helping with taxonomies and all that kind of thing. But there is still a lot of information that is floating around an enterprise that is not controlled by an ECM,” Trombley said.

With the development of digital businesses, records managers turned information managers will have to become more conversant with where the high impact content is located and how it will help the business.

Right in the Middle

With their holistic view of enterprise data, these new information professionals should become the gate keepers of an organizations’ brand, she said. 

But in a large number of organizations, records and information professionals are confined to more traditional content types  and have little responsibility for emerging and unstructured forms of content that are rapidly growing in importance and use.

The research showed, for example, that close to three quarters of records and information managers in retail businesses are responsible for the management of customer data (71 percent) and email (76 percent), but only one quarter are involved with external social media content (29 percent) and mobile communications (37 percent).

“There needs to be that person sitting in the middle between the data scientists and the business people, translating all those things from one side to another. For me, a records or information manager is the ideal person to fill that role,” she said. They know where the records are located, they know what a record is, they know the data quality and where the data is stored. 

"They know a lot about the business. They have the ability to look across all the business units. They are not confined to working with a single silo as many other roles are,” she said.

She pointed out that customer-focused data flows are now getting as much attention as more traditional processes aimed at protecting information. The next generation of information management professionals will focus on compliance, security and leveraging information value.

“If compliance is still an issue, it’s not top of the wish list. Things like getting value out of information is key. There is a void to be filled here and if records managers don’t step into that void I am afraid that data analysts and data scientists may start to encroach on their territory.”

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